Category Archives: Diary of a Hopeful Author

How a nice cup of tea helped my will to win. Sort of…

Welcome to “Wednesday Wafflings” a bit of a well, waffle, where I post the latest in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

I need a cup of tea. Last week I was clumsy, this week I’m tired. For the past few months I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. again to write –  and I think it’s taking its toll. Writing in the morning helps reassure me for the day because if other work takes over later on, at least I know that I’ve put an hour’s worth of writing on to the page. The thing is, I am now absolutely shattered. ‘You look tired,’ says my friend one evening as we go for a fast walk in the late sunshine. ‘I know,’ I yawn, ‘but it will be worth it.’ She narrows her eyes at me and stops walking. ‘Look,’ she says, her serious teacher face on, ‘you don’t need to push yourself quite so hard. Maybe move your deadlines back a bit.’ I rub my eyes and nod before we resume our exercise in the fading light.

When I get home later, I slump on to the sofa and realise that my friend is right. I am pushing myself a little hard. I have given myself a deadline for my second novel to be complete, and it’s quite a tight one. Thing is, I’m over half way through it now and I’m at that stage where I can get an idea of what the finishing line will look like. Trouble is, I am frying myself in the process, but isn’t that what we all do when we work towards something we so badly want and love? There’s a free e-book I downloaded the other day by Karen Brady. If you watch TV, you may know her as the advisor to Lord Alan Sugar on the BBC show The Apprentice; if you’re a footie (aka soccer) fan, you may know her as the Vice-Chairman of West Ham United. The book’s entitled Karen Brady’s 10 Rules for Success, and in it, amongst other things, she cites how hard work is essential if we want to get to where we want to be.  Sat on the sofa one night, iPad on, I quote this to my hubbie. ‘Honey,’ he says, ‘she’s right. You do need to work hard. But right now, if you keep getting hardly any sleep like you are, you’re going to make yourself sick.’ I blow my nose. ‘I’m not sick,’ I croak. He rolls his eyes. ‘Do you want some paracetemol?’ I pull the blanket on to my lap. ‘Mmm, I’d better. Maybe some hot water and lemon, too.’

The next morning, I take a quick look at Karen’s other top ten tips and try to see if I am already achieving some of them. ‘Know how to negotiate.’ Hmmm, I can get the eldest to have only one digestive biscuit instead of two, so, tick! ‘Have the courage to take a risk.’ Okay, so I did contact the Gloucestershire Gazette about writing a column, and I did try a raw scallop once, so yeah, I do risks, so, tick! ‘Plan to win.’ Hmmm…I stand and think. ‘Plan to win,’ I say out loud. My youngest must hear me as she rushes in shouting, ‘Who won? Who won? What did you win mum?’ When I tell her nothing, she drops her shoulders and sulks off. I flop into my seat. Planning to win is not something I normally do. Planning to juggle, yes. Planning to get my roots done one day soon, definitely. But win? It seems almost arrogant – and certainly alien – to think such a thing about myself. But I realise Karen’s advice is right. If I don’t plan to win, how will I ever, you know, win? Feeling a bit tired by all the thinking, I get up, get the kids to school and return to the house to find my mobile buzzing – it’s a direct message for me via Twitter. Clicking it open, I read it to see it’s from a radio presenter at BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Claire Carter – and she wants to do an interview…about my book The Boy Who Played Guitar.  Frozen to the spot, my heart bangs in my chest as Claire and I then proceed to send a string of messages to each other, the upshot of which is that she is coming to our house the next day to interview me. I immediately phone my husband. ‘Wow! Nice one, honey,’ he says. I let out a breath and say, ‘You do radio. Will you give me some pointers?’  He readily agrees and I am very grateful (he, the media tart, loves the radio, and does the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Business Briefing almost every week. He does TV interviews, too. Our kids now think he is famous. I know.) Next, I phone my mum. ‘Proud of you!’ she shouts. Then, finally, I phone my friend. ‘Jesus!’ she shrieks. ‘You’d better wash your hair.’ I nod. ‘And the kitchen sides,’ she says. ‘Wipe down the sides!’  I thank her – she is an oracle of advice.

While I am nervous to start with, the actual interview goes really well. Claire is lovely, so chatty and friendly, and we bond over talk of cuppas and fake tans.  The interview doesn’t just stop at the subject of The Boy Who Played Guitar, either. ‘Do you fancy doing the Thought for the Day slot, as well?’ she asks. I gulp. ‘Sure,’ I croak, but it’s all okay. Claire asks me five Gloucestershire-based questions and I answer them best I can. When we are done, she says each one of my thoughts will air every day on the Breakfast Show for a week. I am beyond chuffed.

‘The Breakfast Show?’ says my hubbie later that evening as we sip some merlot. ‘That gets the highest listening figures.’ I grin. ‘And she was so nice,’ I say. ‘She said she’d let me know when it was all going to be aired and tweet everyone, too.’

It gets to Friday, and as I turn to Twitter, I get a lovely #ff message from Claire Carter, saying kind things about me. It almost makes me cry. Smiling from ear to ear, I tweet back and then stick the kettle on. Switching on my iPad, I click on to Kindle and spot the Karen Brady book. ‘Plan to win,’ I say to myself. The kettle whistles, and I grab the tea bags. Whatever I plan to do, I’ll just make a nice cup of tea first.

Tired from writing or working? What helps you to keep going? Need tea or is coffee your thing? Pop on a comment and let me know. Thanks!

**Out tomorrow: my latest colulmn post for the Gloucestershire Gazette**

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First I lose my files, then I drop my oats…

Welcome to “Weekend Wafflings” my new regular Friday evening blog post full of, well, waffle about me trying to become a reasonably successful author. Think of it as a bit of a feet up read at the end of a busy week.  Glass of wine optional.

Sometimes I’m so clumsy.  Once, a few years back (alright, 12) I was walking to work when I suddenly tripped up on my own feet. Seriously. There I was, spread out on a Manchester pavement, rain lashing down on my back, the contents of my work bag strewn all over the concrete, my Filofax and lippy blending in with the discarded Tennents cans and crisp packets. Pulling myself up, I glanced round to check no-one saw me, and when I was sure the coast was clear, I let out a long breath of relief. Only when I resumed walking did I feel a slight additional, shall we say, breeze to my left leg. Halting, I glanced down at my trousers to see an almighty rip at the knee, the material flapping on either side like sails on a boat. When I walked into the office 10 minutes later, my work pals let out the loudest laughs at the state of me, and even louder ones when they badgered out of me how I’d done it. Needless to say, I was mortified.

These days, while I trip up a touch less often, I’m still just as clumsy. Take this blogging lark. The other day I go to post a comment on the film blog, Fandango Groovers , and instead of starting my comment with an intended, “Aaah”, in my reminiscence about the 80s film, The Breakfast Club (aw, d’you remember those outfits?), I write “Saab”.  Before I know it, I am clicking ‘post’, and there I am, sounding like a numpty to the whole world. Like many a person, turns out it’s not just my feet that trip me up. It’s my fingers, too. You see, after a small run in a few months back with a corrupted memory stick from which crucial files could not be clawed back, I join the server cloud website Dropbox, on the advice of my husband. ‘You need to back up your files,’ he instructs. I nod, trying to remember what he’s saying. ‘A memory stick is not the most reliable place to store your manuscripts,’ he continues. ‘You’ve backed everything up, haven’t you?’ My silence speaks volumes. He shakes his head and leaves the room.  Praying for a miracle, I switch on my laptop and begin to register with Dropbox. Over the next few weeks, all goes well. I write my novel, save it to the cloud. I write my newspaper columns, save them to the cloud. I even email some crucial second drafts to myself as third back up. Save it to the fluffy cloud. Mighty pleased with myself, that night I tell my husband that I’ve rearranged my Dropbox link on laptop number two because there was a shortcut link icon type thingy that didn’t need to be there. Top Gear is on, so I don’t think he hears me, and, thinking nothing more of it, I resume typing away novel number two, making a mental note to get up at 5 am.m to do some writing.

‘Oh my God,’ I whimper. It is now 6 a.m. and I am sat at my laptop in shock. ‘What is it?’ says a sleepy husband, entering the room. ‘Oh my God,’ I repeat. Used to my warblings, my husband ignores me and inspects the screen. ‘Is that your Dropbox link?’ I nod. ‘Aren’t your files supposed to be there?’ he says. Again, I nod. It is all I can manage. Because he is right. The files are supposed to be there – but they have disappeared. ‘I think I deleted them by accident,’ I finally say.  Then: ‘I feel sick.’ My husband lets out a breath and pats my back. ‘I’ll go and put the kettle on,’ he says.

The next morning, by some miracle, I manage to retrieve all but a few of the files. My second novel is still all there, as is the original manuscript of the first, plus a whole host of other crucial items. Padding downstairs, I switch on the stove and make some porridge for me and the youngest – our favourite breakfast treat, figuring, after the morning’s events, I need it. My husband comes in, fixing his tie. ‘Did you manage to sort the computer files?’ he asks. I open the draw to get the porridge oats. ‘Yep,’ I say, ‘thank goodness. What a nightmare.’  Reaching for the porridge tub, I pick it up only for it to inexplicably slip from my hands, its entire contents tipping everywhere. I don’t move, instead choosing to just blink at the drawer and the floor, each now covered in oats. ‘Oh dear,’ says my husband. I say nothing and close the draw. ‘Weren’t you going to make some porridge?’ he asks. I look at him. ‘No,’ I say, deciding to reach for the bread bin. ‘I think I’ll make some toast.’  ‘Ah,’ he says, ‘you could if I hadn’t fused it the other night.’ I sigh and reach for a banana. I’ll be alright as long as I don’t slip on the skin.

Right. Done anything clumsy? Ooo, let’s hear it. Have a great weekend.

**New for next week: “Media Monday”.  A new blog post that gives you a short, sharp start to the week blast of stuff going on on a Monday in the media.**